It’s in your hands
Take into account the many things you do in a day including blowing your nose, playing with the dog, talking on the telephone, typing on the computer, touching the doorknobs; bring your hands into contact with germs.
For this reason, frequent hand washing is the single most important thing you can do to prevent yourself from getting sick as well as from spreading germs to other surfaces and to other people.
Consider the following facts and figures:
- 2 million people become ill each year as a result of a hospital-acquired infection. Proper hand hygiene is critical to the prevention of these infections – which contribute to the death of nearly 90,000 hospital patients per year and $4.5 billion in medical expenses.
- Infectious diseases commonly spread through hand-to-hand contact include the common cold, the flu, and gastrointestinal disorders.
- Proper hand washing is also the most effective way of preventing the spread of many serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchitis, hepatitis A and SARS.
- Many outbreaks of foodborne illness such as salmonella and E.coli, can be traced to unwashed or poorly washed hands.
- 91% of adults say they always wash their hands after using public restrooms. However only 83% were observed doing so.
- Most people report washing their hands after using the bathroom in their home (83%) and before handling or eating foods (77%). However, smaller percentages wash their hands after petting a dog or cat (42%), after coughing or sneezing (32%), or after handling money (21%).
- 68% of respondents of the Soap and Detergent Association’s (SDA) 2006 National Cleaning Survey do not wash their hands long enough to effectively remove germs and dislodge dirt.
Good hand hygiene is proven to benefit health. Properly cleaning your hands is simple and extremely effective yet many people do not maintain this practice as often, or as well, as they should.
Hand Hygiene in the Workplace
Infectious diseases, such as colds and the flu, are the leading causes of employee absenteeism due to illness. Lost productivity in the workplace from the flu alone costs employers an estimated $15 billion. Yet, the first line of defense against infectious diseases – good hand hygiene – is often overlooked by employers. Most companies do not proactively encourage hand washing in the workplace.
The SDA recommends that employees wash their hands approximately five or more times a day. What’s more, there seems to be a direct correlation between encouragement by employees and compliance: in businesses that post hand-washing reminders 72% of employees wash their hands five or more times a day and 38% wash their hands more than 10 times a day. Employers should therefore post reminder signs in bathrooms, kitchens and other communal areas. By doing this, companies are not only being responsible but can also help improve their bottom line.
Improving Hand Hygiene
Hand hygiene is refers to the removal or destruction of microorganisms on hands, such as hand washing with soap and water or the use of a waterless alcohol-based rub. The amount of time spent on hand hygiene is as important as the method used. In addition, wet hands have been shown to transfer germs much more readily than dry hands or hands not washed at all. Therefore, careful hand drying is critical.
HERE ARE SOME HAND WASHING TIPS:
- When to wash hands:
- After using the restroom
- Before and after staff meetings if food is served
- After scanning newspapers or magazines in the break room
- Before and after lunch
- After using someone else’s keyboard or tools
- Before and after a meet and greet activity
- When using shared office equipment such faxes, phones, photocopiers
- How to wash your hands:
- Wet hands with warm running water prior to reaching for soap, either in bar or liquid form.
- Rub hands together to make a lather. Do this away from running water, so the lather isn’t washed away.
- Wash the front and back of hands, between fingers and under nails. Continue washing for 15 seconds or more.
- Rinse hands well under warm running water.
- Dry hands thoroughly with a clean towel or air dryer.